This Is Why You Shouldn’t Use Your Phone In The Secure Area When Entering The U.S.

by joeheg

Getting off of an international flight has its own set of unique rules that are different for every country. When entering the United States, for example, there are signs that say you’re not allowed to use your phone or a camera until you clear passport control, collect your bags and clear U.S. Customs.


Of course, you can use your phone for Mobile Passport, Global Entry, etc. And if you’re standing on a queue in the secure area and are checking your Facebook, chances are no one’s going to bother you, either. But on a past flight, I found out what happens to someone who chooses to ignore the literal meaning of “no cellular phones” (read: don’t talk on the phone) rule.

We had just landed on a flight from London. Thanks to Global Entry, we were through Passport Control in under five minutes, but that meant we had to wait for the baggage to be unloaded from our flight. While at the baggage carousel in that secure area, I decided to rearrange the items in my pockets, since I had haphazardly threw them in there when getting off the plane. This included removing my phone to move it from one pocket to another.

Almost immediately I heard a guard behind me say “NO PHONES!” and, not knowing if it was directed to me or not, I immediately returned my phone into my other pants pocket.

Just to be on safe side, my phone stayed in my pocket until I claimed my baggage and was cleared into the terminal building. The same was not true for another passenger on my flight.

As a larger crowd gathered around the baggage carousel, I again heard “NO PHONES!” yelled out from behind me. I looked up and saw that a woman on the other side of the carousel was talking on her phone.

“PUT IT AWAY…..NOW!!!!!!”

Have you ever watched a person make a series of poor decisions all in a row?

The woman raises her hand and waves off the officer. Bad life choice, lady.

Next thing I know, the officer is sprinting, pushing me out of the way and climbing OVER the carousel towards her. It was as awkward and shocking as you’d imagine.

Sharon was standing behind me and saw the officer run by and her observation was, “He had a handgun in the secure area. He’s not the one you should be messing around with.”


However, this woman had a special kind of something as she said to the officer as he rushed towards her, “I’m almost done with my call.”  That’s another REALLY poor decision, lady. 


Nope. She starts to tell the person on the phone what’s happening.

Officer then goes to take the phone from her hand, which she tries to resist, but loses, and the officer hangs it up.

“I was almost finished! What’s your problem?” Some people never learn. 


Things just got real, and fast.

She still goes at the officer, who now has backup waiting.

The officer wasn’t waiting to hear what she is trying to say. He didn’t care.


The woman made her first good decision of the night and handed over her passport as they walked back towards the passport control area.

All of the other passengers were in a sort of shocked amazement at the sheer stupidity of this woman. If she had just hung up the phone, she would have gotten a stern warning but would probably be on her way home. Now, we were sure she would be sitting in an empty room waiting to be interviewed by an officer who doesn’t really care why she was on the phone, or who with, but more so why she ignored the orders of a border control officer and let’s check what’s on your phone.

So just remember, you can’t talk on your phone (or, according to the sign, take photographs or video) in the secure area when clearing U.S. Customs and Immigration and if a Customs Officer gives you a direct command, follow what they say.

Sorry we don’t have any pictures or video of the incident…;-)

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary




Mak October 26, 2023 - 6:28 pm

This person made the mistake of thinking that she had just arrived in a free country rather than a police state. Now she knows.

NB October 26, 2023 - 7:30 pm

Welcome to the land of the Free

Sam Kim October 26, 2023 - 11:05 pm

For reference to anyone visiting the US: I’ve had dozens of trips through “immigration” (as the amsricans call it, usually called passport control) and customs per year for the past many years, mostly at JFK, SFO, LAX, or ORD. But also SEA, SLC, PHL, IAH, ATL and I have never witnessed anything close to this. Ever.

And even if this story and all it’s details are true, remember the traveller on the phone had multiple warnings.

In fact last time I walked through, with global entry, the tsa officer rattled off a name which wasn’t mine (they’re doing just name/photo auto identification for GE at some airports now), I said “no, wrong Asian guy,” to which the black officer laughed and then read off another asian sounding name, which happened to be mine. And I nodded. He waved me on.

John October 27, 2023 - 2:26 am

I don’t know how to put this nicely. This is a poorly informed blog entry.

The “no phones” rule has been dropped at least a decade ago. Many airports such as JFK even provide free WiFi for pax in the immigration queue (there are banners/TV screens advertising that you may use that).

Lars October 27, 2023 - 11:01 am

@Sam Kim,

I feel what you’re saying. I have similar experience with various points of entry around the US. That said, my guess is this story is set at the entry point at Orlando/MCO. That’s the only point of entry where I’ve seen CBP aggressively roaming the baggage collection area issuing loud warnings/threats about cell phone usage. I couldn’t tell you why this is. It’s just my experience.

Left Handed Passenger October 27, 2023 - 11:30 am

Absolutely true. They enforce an ancient rule that’s only about cell phones and cameras. They have no rules for and they don’t care about any other function of your smartphone. Don’t be the stupid one. If you think there’s a silly rule, game the system and use it to your advantage.

dee October 31, 2023 - 12:53 am

I used mine the other day to check my apple tag and see if my bag was ever going to come..Thank goodness no one saw me or interceded.


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